Male Homosexual Systems

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Gender-Stratified Systems. In gender-stratified systems men who take on a pathic (passive or receptive) role in sexual relationships are culturally distinguished from typical men, but the men who take on "active" (inser-tor) roles are not. Unlike "gays," pathics do not typically have sex with other pathics. This system is widespread on all the world's continents. In many societies pathics are known for their special ceremonial roles. Among the Siberian Chuckchee a youth begins his transformation when he receives a "shamanic calling." He gradually adopts female characteristics—hairstyles, then dress, then female tasks, and finally female speech. At this point he begins to seek the "good graces of men" and may eventually marry one of his lovers. Pathic shamans, called "soft men," also communicate with supernatural husbands, The pathic's human husband is not differentiated from the other men in society, but he may have to follow the orders of his cross-gendered wife's supernatural husband. Many non-pathic Chukchee also become shamans, but the "soft-men" are considered special (Murray, 2000).

Gender-stratified homosexuality is also common in Latin America. Although some pathics may adopt special religious roles, like the Brazilian pai de santo, most do not, and homosexuality is not necessary for these positions. In his study of a Brazilian fishing village Cardoso (2002) found that most men had had sex with the village's paneleiros (pathics), some of whom were transvestites. Lack of heterosexual opportunities could not explain why men turned to the pathics. The men who had sex with paneleiros were actually somewhat more popular with the women than other men. Nor did these men appear to have "bisexual" personality profiles. The local culture did not distinguish them from other men, and they were not intermediate between pathics and other men on childhood precursors to homosexuality (Cardoso, n.d.).

Age-Stratified Systems. Age-stratified homosexual systems have been identified on all the continents except the Americas. One of the most common forms is the "mentorship" system, in which an older male takes on a boy as his protégé to teach the arts of politics, religion, or warfare. In most of these societies relationships are monogamic, and much care is taken to select the proper mentor. Boys may become apprentices as young as 7-10 years, as among the New Guinea Sambia, and may continue with their "passive" role until as old as 25, as among the New Guinea Etoro. At this point a man may take on a boy apprentice of his own until he eventually marries a woman. In some societies, as among the ancient Greeks, the men may continue their mentorship roles even after marrying women. In some societies, like the Etoro, these homosexual activities were more common and considered far superior to heterosexual sex that might be totally prohibited for two thirds of the year. Lengthy and complex rituals assured that insemination would give the boys male strength (Herdt, 1984; Murray, 2000).

From the 13 th to the 17th centuries in Japan older Buddhist monks maintained (active) homosexual relations with (passive) younger acolytes or postulants. Although these nanshoku relationships were attributed to the founder of Japanese Buddhism in the 8th century, the custom probably drew more from Shinto and Confucian traditions. At the same time, older Samurai maintained a similar tradition with younger warriors. Sometimes these relationships continued throughout adult life and led to heroic tales of the "comrade loves of the Samurai," similar to the ancient Greek myths of Achilles and Patroclus or Apollo and Ametus (Ihara, 1972; Leupp, 1994; Murray, 2000).

In both Japan and Greece these "mentorship" systems eventually transformed into "catamite" systems (similar to those of the later Roman emperors and Turkish sultans) in which kept boys were made more effeminate for the sexual pleasures of powerful older males, with no pedagogical aims. Among the West African Mossi, chiefs kept boys for sexual purposes, especially for Fridays when sex with women was taboo (Murray & Roscoe, 1998). Among the Ashanti, some male slaves were treated as female lovers. In many societies (China, Korea, Japan, Rome, Egypt, Iraq) boys took on women's roles in theatrical productions and served as prostitutes, a practice which led some (including possibly Shakespeare's England) to denounce the theater (Murray, 2000).

Egalitarian Systems. In egalitarian systems power differences between "active" and "passive" partners do not exist, or are downplayed. In many societies adolescent friends engage in homosexual play. Among the African Nyakyusa boys live apart in separate villages from adults. They sleep together and commonly have interfemoral intercourse with each other. Informants said that an adult male may have sex with boys, but never with another adult male (Murray, 2000). Among Yanomami Indians intervillage homosexuality is encouraged and a youth is likely to marry his "best friend's" sister. Some Australian aborigine adolescents similarly have sex with their future brothers-in-law. Adolescent homosexuality has also been common in many Melanesian and Polynesian societies like Tikopia, Samoa, Tahiti, and Hawaii.

In a few societies an adolescent sexual relationship may develop into a "comrade" relationship that lasts a lifetime and continues to include sex, although both men also have heterosexual relationships and marry women. Although never typical of all the men in a society, such relationships have been reported among ancient Greeks,

Romans, and Japanese (Murray, 2000), and among the more modern Pashtans of Pakistan (Lindholm, 1982).

The rarest of homosexual systems in the ethnographic literature is our modern "gay" system, in which exclusive homosexuals engage in sex with other exclusive homosexuals throughout their lives. This system may, indeed, be unique to modern society as claimed by Foucault. In any case, the "gay" system appears to be increasing recently. Murray and Arboleda (1995) noted changes over time from "pathic" to "gay" systems in Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. In the 1970s, only 50% of their informants had heard of the term "gay," and only 23% thought it referred to both "passive" and "active" partners. In the 1980s, 76% had heard of the term and 58% applied it to both "passives" and "actives."

Other Male Systems. Although this classification system may be useful, it cannot account for all of the ways homosexuality occurs in different societies. For example, Duerr (1993) points out that homosexual rape has often been used to humiliate defeated enemies. Greek vases show Persians submitting anally to their conquerors. The losers in Yanomomi club fights were also victimized in this way. Homosexual rapes in prisons throughout the world have been well documented (see www.spr.org).

Also, different types of homosexuality may be found in different sectors of the same society. "Gay" systems may characterize most of the homosexual activity found in today's northern European cultures. Still, gender-stratified systems occur in prisons, and age-stratified systems may occur in private schools or street gangs (Duerr, 1993). In ancient Greece age-stratified systems may have received most of the attention, but gender-stratified homosexuality also occurred. The Greek terms kinaidos, europroktoi, and katapygon referred to men who engaged in passive anal intercourse even as adults. Although their behavior was tolerated, these men were not allowed to hold public office or participate in citizen assemblies (Murray, 2000).

In addition, especially in small-scale societies, rather ad hoc social adjustments may be confused with long-standing cultural traditions. Crocker (1990) reports the presence of three elderly cross-gendered men among the Brazilian Kanela Indians he studied, but states that the group had no tradition for transvestites to follow. Native research assistants told Crocker that these men were not active sexually, but one had previously allowed Kanela men to have anal intercourse with him. Similarly, Clastres (1972) describes a transvestite among the hunting and gathering Aché of Paraguay. His account ties traditional structural characteristics of Aché culture to the transves-tite's behavior (including his sexual relations with his own brothers), but it seems more likely that these behaviors were ad hoc rather than traditional since a closely related band of Aché reported never having heard of transvestites.

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